- False vs. Real Labor
- Signs of Labor
- Related Resources
What causes Braxton-Hicks contractions?
Braxton-Hicks contractions prepare the womb for childbirth. They tone the uterine muscles to prepare for birth and boost blood flow to the placenta. They are common, do not follow a regular pattern, and tend to go away gradually.
Braxton-Hicks contractions can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
What do Braxton-Hicks contractions feel like?
Also called false labor pains, Braxton-Hicks contractions often manifest as a tightening sensation in the abdomen. They can be uncomfortable without being painful. You may feel the uterus hardening if you place your hands on your abdomen during the contractions. Many compare them to premenstrual pain or cramps.
According to the American Association of Pregnancy, Braxton-Hicks contractions have the following characteristics:
- Infrequent (occurring a few times a day, not more than 1-2 times an hour)
- Irregular intensity
- More uncomfortable than painful (although it can be painful for some)
- Do not increase in intensity or frequency
- Taper on and off
- May go away with a change in position, a warm bath, or a short walk
- Not associated with thinning and opening of the cervix
How can you tell the difference between Braxton-Hicks and real labor contractions?
Braxton-Hicks contractions do not usually follow a pattern, while true labor contractions do. Keep track of your contractions for an hour and measure the time between the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next. If your contractions occur every 5-10 minutes, you should contact your doctor.
Braxton-Hicks contractions can be brief or lengthy, weak or intense, and feel like your abdomen is clenching into a hard ball. Real labor contractions usually last at least 30 seconds at first, then get longer and more intense with each subsequent contraction.
Braxton-Hicks contractions often stop or become less painful when you shift from sitting to standing or standing to lying down. If it is labor, the contractions will continue regardless of what you do.
False labor is most typically indicated by painful contractions solely at the front of the abdomen. True labor pain often begins in the back and lower abdomen and is associated with pressure in the pelvic region.
If you are unsure whether you are in actual labor or not, contact your doctor.
Does Braxton-Hicks contractions mean the baby is coming soon?
Braxton-Hicks contractions are not a sign that labor is approaching. If your contractions become more intense, frequent, and painful, however, contact your doctor right away.
Signs of labor pain include the following:
- Engagement: You may notice during the final few weeks that your baby has dropped down lower in the abdomen. Most first-time pregnant people observe this 2 weeks before giving birth. However, dropping can happen as early as 4 weeks before the due date. In the case of a second pregnancy, the baby does not drop until the labor begins. This could be because the pelvic muscles are already stretched from the first pregnancy. The baby's head settling into the pelvis is called “lightening” or “engagement.”
- Low back pain: Expect some aches or pains in your lower back and pelvis because your uterine and pelvic ligaments are stretched even more as the baby grows heavier and settles lower down.
- Frequent urination: Because the baby's head (or another presenting part) is now closer to your bladder, you may need to use the restroom more frequently. While frequent trips to the bathroom are inconvenient, they may indicate that labor is near.
- Diarrhea: Pregnancy hormones that affect the intestines cause symptoms such as abdominal cramps and loose, frequent bowel movements. You may experience nausea as a result of the same hormones.
- Increased vaginal discharge: When labor approaches, vaginal discharge may be increased. These pre-labor indications are distinct from the other types of vaginal discharge.
- Bloody vaginal discharge: The mucus plug that had previously sealed the cervix may “uncork” when the baby's head descends into the pelvic cavity and pre-labor contractions thin the cervix. Some experience the occasional passage of a clear mucus plug, whereas others only experience an increase in the amount of blood-tinged vaginal discharge. Because your cervix thins, some of the tiny blood vessels rupture, resulting in pink to brownish-red-tinged blood mucus. Report this to your doctor right away if your discharge contains more blood than mucus. Labor is most likely to start within 3 days to 1-2 weeks of noticing blood in the mucus.
- Water breaking: Water breaking does not happen to most people until they are well into labor. If your water breaks before your labor has begun, you should anticipate that your labor will begin intensely in the next few minutes or hours or at the very least the following day.
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How can I manage Braxton-Hicks contractions?
There is no proven approach to managing Braxton-Hicks that works for everyone. However, you can try the following home remedies:
- Changing positions: If you have been standing, lie down; if you have been sitting or lying down, take a walk. Changing positions could be effective.
- Bathing: Take warm baths to help relieve the contractions and associated discomfort.
- Proper hydration: Sometimes contractions are the result of dehydration. Staying hydrated can help minimize uncomfortable symptoms.
If you feel that something is not right with your pregnancy, contact your doctor. If you experience painful contractions before your due date, especially before your third trimester, seek emergency care because it could be a sign of pregnancy complications or preterm birth.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Braxton Hicks Contractions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470546/#:
Braxton Hicks Contractions. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/labor-and-birth/braxton-hicks/
Braxton Hicks. https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/true-false-labor
False alarm: Braxton Hicks contractions vs. true labor. https://utswmed.org/medblog/braxton-hicks-contractions/
Top What Week Do Braxton-Hicks Start Related Articles
Braxton Hicks Contractions (False Labor)Braxton Hicks contractions are also known as false labor pains. Though these irregular uterine contractions may occur in the second trimester, they're more likely to occur during the third trimester of pregnancy. Unlike true labor pains, false labor pains are often irregular, may stop when you walk, rest, or change positions, and the contractions do not get closer together or stronger.
Braxton Hicks vs. True Labor: How to Tell the DifferenceSome pregnant women may mistake Braxton Hicks contractions (false labor) for real labor contractions, especially in the first pregnancy. Real labor contractions occur at regular intervals that become progressively shorter; more painful as labor progresses; are described as a tightening, pounding, or stabbing pain. Braxton Hicks contractions do not occur in regular intervals; do not become longer over time; and may disappear for a period of time and then return. Braxton Hicks contractions occur in third trimester of pregnancy, however, sometimes can occur in the second trimester. True labor contractions begin around your due date (unless your baby is preterm, in which you will be in preterm labor). So how can you tell the difference? Here are a few similarities and differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and True or real labor contractions.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions tend to become more frequent toward the end of pregnancy, and are not as painful as real labor contractions; do not occur in regular intervals; do not become longer over time; and may disappear for a period of time and then return.
Frequently one of the early symptoms and signs of true labor is when the contractions begin to occur less than 10 minutes apart.
Real labor contractions occur at regular intervals that become progressively shorter; more painful as labor progresses; are described as a tightening, pounding, or stabbing pain; may feel similar to menstrual cramps; and sometimes Braxton Hicks contractions can be triggered by dehydration, sexual intercourse, increased activity of the mother or baby, touching of the pregnant woman's abdomen, or a distended bladder.
Natural and home remedies to soothe and provide comfort for Braxton Hicks contractions include relaxation exercises like deep breathing or mental relaxation; change positions or take a walk if you have been active and rest; drink a glass of herbal tea or water; eat; or soak in a warm bath for 30 minutes (or less).
Preterm labor signs and symptomsWhen you have reached 37 weeks, and the contractions are more painful and are increasing in frequency you will have abdominal pain or menstrual-like cramping, an increase in pelvic pressure or back pain, and the contractions are more than four contractions an hour.
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